Monday, August 1, 2016

Call of Duty Kids

I've never been much of a gun enthusiast, but I have been friends with, and neighbors to, a number of collectors.  They were mostly into pre-WW2 stuff, six-shooters, bolt-action rifles, double-barreled shotguns, and even a British breech-loading single-shot lever-actuated rifle from the Zulu Wars that fired brass black-powder cartridges!  As a kid I would sometimes go out target shooting, and as such was thoroughly instructed on proper usage of firearms.  Guns aren't all-powerful killing devices, nor are they toys.  They are tools that can be very dangerous and need to be treated with the utmost respect.  Something else I learned very quickly was that anything larger than a .22 round was painful for little 12-year-old me to fire.  I'm not just talking about recoil here, discharging a .30-06 will rattle your teeth, reverberate in your chest and make your ears ring even with proper hearing protectors on.  In movies and (by extension) video games, they love to load guns with slow burning reduced powder charges.  The result is a huge flame out of the barrel and very little kickback.  Obviously it's not all that similar to the real thing.  Another thing I learned very quickly was (unlike Hollywood movie stars or the protagonists of point-and-click shooters) hitting anything with a pistol is really hard, even when the target is close, doesn't move, and you have all the time in the world to aim.  I have a relative that claims I would have eventually gotten the hang of handguns provided I burned through a few thousand rounds worth of ammunition practicing at the shooting range, but for better or worse, budget limitations forced me to limit myself to a BB gun most of the time.

Regardless, my experiences with real-life firearms has always made it difficult for me to enjoy the FPS genre.  Not so much when it comes to the likes of DOOM since, let's face it, that game has more in common with an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon than anything else.  No, the games that bug me are "realistic" shooters made by the likes of Activision, EA, and Ubisoft.  You know...the kind of games that replace the tedium and fear of real warfare with a lot of glamour and balls-to-the-wall action.  I'm not actually against the concept.  After all, video games about escapism in one form or another, and unlike a vocal sub-set of people out there, I understand the difference between correlation and cause.  Especially when it comes to violent media and society.  That said, it still annoys me when naive youths get the idea that these kind of games reflect the reality of things in any way, shape or form.  I'm just going to come out and say this right now:  assault rifles aren't good home defense weapons.  The best firearm for such a purpose is (and has been for over a century now) the pump-action shotgun.  It's reliable, doesn't travel overly far (so you don't risk harming innocent bystandards as much), has excellent stopping power, and best of all is easy to hit targets with.  Alternatively, more muscular types might want to go with cold steel instead.  The Roman gladius has killed more people than any other type of weapon in human history.  You can buy high quality replicas for relatively affordable prices and it's well suited to close quarters fighting (plus you don't have to reload or worry about it going off accidentally).  In fact, the only time I can see an assault rifle coming in handy is if your dwelling is under siege by a squad of Waffen SS troopers (possibly led by zombie Hitler himself).

Just to absolutely clear here, I'm not against violence in video games.  By their nature video games are conflict driven, and what kind of conflict is more universal than survival?  All the same, it's a little bit weird that there's never been a piece of media that accurately depicts gunshot wounds...probably because audiences would find it revolting.  You see...the horrifying truth is bullets rarely kill outright.  Real life humans don't have HP bars.  They have blood vessels, nerve centers, muscle, tendon and bone, as well as vital (and non-vital) organs.  Not to mention psychological factors like shock and adrenaline.  All of the above can (in the short term) cause the effects of gunshot wounds to vary wildly, from painless to agonizing, with little regard to the severity of the actual injury.  Games don't acknowledge this, nor do they ever admit to being way off the mark.  They could, but they won't because it might affect their bottom line.  When it comes to the risk-adverse triple-AAA scene, the only acceptable way of thinking is bigger explosions and higher body counts.

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